Coppa Del Mundo

Now that both England and Brazil are out of the World Cup finals I'm having a hard time getting excited about the last few games. At least Italy are in; they are always a useful second backup after Brazil, but while I am glad to see them play, I don't really care all that much whether they win or lose.

Anyway, it's hard watching football around here. Watching a football match properly calls for a degree of attention that is impossible while you are making sure that Child 2 isn't choking on some abandoned crayon, and at the same time reading Pooh (with all the right voices) to Child 1. So mostly it's been on as background noise for the last month, a screen saver for the television. It's the most TV Delphine has ever watched, I think. We talk about where the players come from, and what their names are. (Delphine now knows that Germany is a country.)

I will be sorry when it's all over; I have tried being interested in league football, but I just don't care, and even the Euro Cup (or whatever it's called) isn't all that interesting. You have to have the little African countries to root for, and the wonderful South Americans. So I'll put my fan hat away until 2010, when Delphine will be seven and Cordelia will be three and a half -- older than Delphine is now. (Last World Cup we had no children at all!) And maybe next time England will win...

Shut up, nasty little man.

I realized today why my injured knee has been bothering me so much, emotionally. It's because that horrible little man, that man who lives in the back of my head and who I thought I had banished forever, is dancing with glee. He is dancing with glee and hissing "You see? I told you! I told you you are too fat to be a runner!'

Shut up, nasty little man, and crawl back in your hole, because my knee feels better today and I will run again.

Okay, you know the other thing that pisses me off about this? (Soon I will stop going on about this, I promise.) Blake decided that he was going to ride his bike up to Balm Beach, like, 135 kilometers, and you know what, I bet he is going to do it. But I decide I am going to start running and not two weeks into it I am couch-bound with a stupid injury! This after I had to give up hot yoga because of my back! It's like every time I try and get fitter something fouls it up.

How come everyone else can do this stuff and I can't? Waah!

I know, welcome to my pity party. I hope that eventually this will just be a humourous anecdote about the inauspicious start to my long running career. There I will be, cocktail in hand: "I had only been running for a week -- I had been out three times! -- and there I was with an injured knee! Ha ha! Can you believe it! Well, then I got proper shoes and here I am, three marathons later! Incredible! Ha ha ha! Pass the olives!"

Nine Month Statistics

We went to the doctor yesterday for Cordelia's nine month checkup. Here are her specs:

Weight: 20 lbs
Height: 29.3 inches
Head Circumference: 18 inches

No shots this time, and I couldn't think of anything to say to the doctor. She has reached all the appropriate milestones and is chugging along nicely. Hooray!

Woe Is Me (But At Least I Am Not Dead)

A couple of weeks ago, after I read that Silken Laumann book, I realized that I no longer had any excuse not to take a running clinic at The Running Room. I had thought for a while about taking a clinic, thought about it, planned to do it at some unspecified point in the future... and suddenly I realized that that point was now. Cordelia is old enough that she can be away from me for a while, and Blake is more than willing to look after her and Delphine while I go out running.

So I signed up for the Learn To Run clinic, a ten-week program that promises to take the slobbiest slob and render them capable of running a 5K. I dug out my old running shoes and showed up the first Saturday, 8:30 in the morning. I was full of energy, keen to go, had been up for hours already! I ran, I walked, it was great, it was easier than I thought, I loved being out in the fresh air first thing in the morning before all the crowds. I went for a practice run that Monday, and then for a bike ride with Blake on Thursday. I was feeling good, healthy, my back was feeling looser and less painful than it had in years.

Okay, my knee was a little sore on the bike ride, but hey! My knees are always a little sore! Arthritis, right? Getting some exercise and losing weight will only help, right? So I went to the clinic and ran again -- it was still good, but a little harder this week. Oh, and they mentioned that you should really get new shoes after you have babies because your feet change. Oh.

By then my knee really hurt, but I walked the twenty-minute walk home, then back up to the store again later that day to buy new shoes, and home again. (I am really stupid.)

My knee still hurt by Wednesday -- all the time, whether I was walking or running or just sitting -- so I went to see my physical therapist. And as it turns out, I have injured the cartilage in my knee and I won't be able to run for at least a couple of weeks, if ever. (The "if ever" part we will find out through a process of trial and error, lucky me.)

And in the meantime, I have to stay off my feet as much as possible; no trip to the store, no trip to the library to pick up the books I have on hold there. It's a blessing that Starbucks is just across the street, that's all I say. The irony is that I started this trying to get fit, and here I am more sedentary than ever.

Oh woe, oh woe, but at least I am not dead. (A friend of a friend was killed in a horseback riding accident last weekend, a timely reminder that it could always be worse.)

Cordelia: Nine Months

Cordelia is going to be nine months old next Tuesday. She is strong and big, she is charming and funny. She smiles at people; I will be walking along with her in the stroller, and someone coming the other way, someone frowning or lost in thought, will suddenly start to smile like they have seen a long-lost friend. I will start to panic: do I know this person? Should I remember their name? Then I realize they are been sucked into the vortex of joy that is Cordelia's smile; it's like they literally can't resist smiling back. I hope she always uses her powers for good, not evil.

Just a couple of days ago she gave up the commando crawling in favour of the traditional hands-and-knees method, which seems more efficient and doesn't pick up so much dust. But crawling, for Cordelia, is just a method of getting to something she can use to stand up. She loves to stand up, against the couch, against the table, even against the wall. She loves the challenge of standing up against the glider ottoman, because it moves; if you wiggle it back and forth when she's leaning on it she laughs. She likes to stand up and hold on with one hand; she will turn and catch your eye and grin: "look, mum!" This morning I was holding just one hand while she stood up, and I let go and she stayed upright, although it was the momentary uprightness of, say, a two-by-four balanced on its end. I caught her before she toppled, but while she stood there she was grinning like mad. She is fearless and a bit of a show-off.

She is eating almost everything except milk and the usual things which are verboten until one year (eggs, honey, berries). She eats soft table food, like cheese and toast with the crusts cut off and banana, and would really prefer to feed herself than be spoon-fed, which means I have to remember to prepare things which are tidy enough to be finger food. She's patient enough, though, that I can give her a pile of rice on her tray and she will pick it up, kernel by kernel, and stuff it slowly in.

Obviously, her pincer grasp is really good. She still has some trouble with losing bits of food in her fist; if she has some toast or something clutched in her hand she eats the parts that protrude from her grasp, but she doesn't know yet that she has to open her fist to get at what's inside, so she tries to put her whole hand in her mouth. Cute; not too smart though.

She's sleeping fairly well (if you consider going to bed at 6:30 and waking up at 5:00 to be well). She naps twice during the day, alone in her crib just like a TV baby. I think the early wake-up is because we put her to bed so early, but I'm not sure how to shift it later without ballsing up our whole evening; after Cordelia goes to bed we put Delphine to bed, which usually takes between half-an-hour and forty-five minutes, and then we make dinner. That puts us making dinner at seven and usually not eating until eight, which is about as late as I can stand it. If we move the girls' bedtime later, I think we would have to start having dinner with them, but that would make either our dinner too early or their bedtime too late, plus I don't relish the idea of cooking a proper dinner whilst supervising the girls. (I usually cobble together sometime fairly quick (but still healthy!) for the girls and then make something more elaborate for Blake and I.)

So, whatever, I guess we will just leave it as it is for now and try and go to bed earlier ourselves so as to deal better with the five o' clock reveille.

I'm treating Cordelia completely differently than I treated Delphine. This morning after we had breakfast I left her in the living room while I did something in the kitchen (there's a window from the kitchen to the living room, so I wasn't entirely out of sight) and she hung around doing her thing; she stood up, she sat back down, she pulled books off the shelves, she climbed in amongst the toys and sat smugly in the midst of all that plenty like a tiny rajah.

I would never have done that with Delphine; the moment I tried to put her down she would have started crying and I would have picked her up again. She was on my hip constantly until she was about fifteen months old. If she did play in the living room, I would have been hovering behind her, spotting her as she stood up and holding my breath as she sat down.

I'm not sure, and never will be, how much of Cordelia's boldness and independence is because I'm not hovering over her, and how much I am able to not hover because she's so independent. Similarly I will never know how much of Delphine's clinginess as a baby was because I never let her experience what it was to be alone. What I do know is that Delphine is independent and confident now, so whatever insecurity she experienced about being alone, she had the resources to deal with it when the time came.

I think the difference is that Delphine learned to be on her own at twenty months, and Cordelia has learned to be on her own at six months, and I expect that doesn't amount to a hell of a lot of difference in the long run.

Books in June

In Your Face: The Culture of Beauty and You by Shari Graydon is a beauty myth primer for teens, and as such didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, although I think it did me good to be reminded of this stuff. I've been watching too much What Not To Wear and am starting to think that it's good and right to want to be pretty all the time.

Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World Around You by David Ropeik and George Gray. This is really what it claims to be: a practical guide. It's a huge list of everything you think is scary -- radiation, electromagnetic waves, pesticide residue, tap water -- with discussions of how scared you should actually be, and why, and what you can do to protect yourself. This would be a handy reference book to keep around the house.

An Intelligent Person's Guide to Judaism by Shmuel Boteach. (Actually now I'm not sure whether I got the 1999 edition by "Shmuel" or the 2006 edition by "Shmuley". I wonder what else changed...) I got this because I am vaguely interested in Judaism and also because I love Shmuley's show on TLC. As it turns out, Judaism is pretty cool but I can't get past the believing in God requirement. I guess that's a pretty fundamental part of this whole Abrahamic religion thing but I just can't do it.

Some other thoughts: Shmuley doesn't like Ashkenazi culture. What's wrong with knishes? What's wrong with klezmer? Nothing, that's what!

The part refuting the Christian idea of suffering being a means to better oneself threw me for a loop because I realized I have bought that concept entirely. When someone claims that their suffering made them stronger I nod agreeably; it had never even occurred to me that it might not be so. I'm still not sure that it is always false; I think that some suffering is good for you. Where Shmuley and I may differ is in the scale of the suffering under consideration; he is talking about being, say, imprisoned and used for creepy medical experimentation where I am thinking more of, say, not having a TV in your bedroom.

The whole section about women was a little creepy. I'm just not sure where I stand on the whole gender thing these days. Having read Gender Wars (and having a working brain) I know that women are not identical to men; being a feminist I believe that women are legally, morally and in every other way equal to men; being a mathematician I know that the differences between men and women in most meaningful scales are less significant than the variation within either group; being a parent I believe that someone has to put the home and family first and their career second. Shmuley thinks that the woman is most biologically suited to that role, but I don't think that's so. Shmuley also says women are naturally more spiritual than men, gentler, more compassionate, smell better -- a lot of nice things which make me think maybe I am being patronized. Maybe not, though, perhaps I am over-sensitive and suspicious.

Anyway, I will read some more Shmuley books and see how they are.

Better House and Planet by Marjorie Harris is a book about how to keep your house in an environmentally sensitive manner. It's actually one of those "1000 Household Tips"-type books that were popular in the eighties. I took it out because I wanted some tips on cleaning without using nasty cleaning products, but this book is more like a big game of "Bullshit or not?!" A sliced avocado won't brown if you don't take the stone out: bullshit or not? Bullshit! I can't remember any more, but this book had a concentration of about one urban legend per two pages.

Very disappointing, and I still don't know how to clean without using nasty products. Maybe I will just use vinegar for everything.

The World's Best Street & Yard Games by Glen Vecchione is a collection of all the cool games you played (or didn't play, in my case) when you were a kid, and lots more besides. Games for when you are feeling rowdy or when you are all dressed up and can't get dirty; games for day and games for night; games for the sidewalk and games for the park. It's an excellent collection, and it made me wish the girls would hurry up and grow up so we could play.

Cross Bones by Kathy Reichs. Another good Kathy Reichs, although again her sentence fragments — and paragraphs consisting entirely of a single sentence fragment — got on my nerves. And this time her "my subconscious is trying to tell me something" shtick that she does at the end of every book she writes annoyed me as well. (Then Jeffrey Deaver did it in his book too — do all mystery writers do it and I just never noticed before? Surely not.)

But what annoyed me most of all was how much they screwed up this character and the stories when they made the TV series Bones. It's like they threw out everything that was good about the books, threw in David Boreanaz and half-baked the whole thing. Is that show even still on?

Naked by David Sedaris is very funny and good, although his constant moaning about what a sad loser he is is a bit of a demotivator when after all, he is the one who wrote the book and there you are sitting at home reading it. If he's a sad loser, what does that make you? I don't really know how he went from being a sad loser to having his book on my shelf, but there you go.

Incidentally, if you like this you might like the David Rakoff book I read a while ago; they are both gay New Yorkers named David who do weird things and write about them amusingly.

When You Lunch With The Emperor by Ludwig Bemelmans. Anyone who has read to Delphine knows that Ludwig Bemelmans is the Madeline guy, but apparently he also wrote books for grown-ups. This is a collection of his autobiographical essays; witty, cutting but not catty, poignant, favourable adjective, favourable adjective. I will read more of his stuff eventually; you should too.

Twelfth Card by Jeffrey Deaver. This is a Lincoln Rhyme book; if you remember the movie The Bone Collector, it was an adaptation of an earlier Lincoln Rhyme book starring Denzel Washington as Lincoln Rhyme in an unusual spot of race-blind casting. Unfortunately it caused me some mild confusion at the beginning of this book, because the Lincoln Rhyme in the book is not only white but is required by the plot to be somewhat ignorant of black culture. Once I sorted out the "he's actually white" thing I was fine.

The book was heavy on information, with lots of clunky sentences like "Mel Cooper lifted several samples off the tape and ran them through the gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer, the workhorse instrument in all forensic labs. It separates unknown trace into its component parts and then identifies them." Smooth, but then I suppose you have to get that information out somehow, and I would rather the author just blurt it out rather than giving it to a character as some crude expository dialogue: "Mrs. Jones, this is a gas chromatograph slash mass spectrometer. Perhaps you already know that it is the workhorse..."

I supposed the "romance" between Sachs and Rhyme (or as I think of them, Angelina and Denzel) is developed in one of the earlier books, but in this book I just couldn't see the attraction; Rhyme seemed like a patronizing ass, and Sachs seemed to be annoyed with him much of the time. As I would be.

Anyway, having said all that, still an enjoyable read with a damn good mystery, some surprising twists and a satisfying result.

Get Your Tongue Out Of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye by Cynthia Heimel. Despite the tacky title and the even tackier cover, this was a collection of good, funny essays by an author I hadn't encountered before. I will see if she has written anything more recent though, because this book was really dated: she makes references to Miatas and Ghost, she claims New Yorkers don't eat sushi and that you shouldn't wear high heels with jeans. It boggles the mind, really, but I suppose that's what happens when you write a pop culture book.

Things Bought: June 2006 Edition

Neutrogena Fresh Cooling Body Mist Sunblock, SPF 30: This is the stuff that is advertised that you don't have to rub it in, you just spray it on. I hate using sunblock because of the sticky goo factor, so I thought I would try this. It's an old-school metal aerosol can, which I don't usually buy because they're so hideous for the environment. It does indeed spray in a very fine mist; so fine that about sixty percent of it flies into the air and never actually makes it to your skin. Instead it goes all over your bathroom, or worse, into your lungs. Well, into your nose; hopefully it doesn't actually make it to your lungs. It's so bad that I banish the children from the bathroom and put on the extractor fan before I use it. It also gets caught in all the little hairs, so I wonder how much of it is really reaching my skin. And to add injury to insult, it gave me a painful, itchy, flaking rash on my neck and shoulders. Boo. I am using it up on my feet and the tattoo on my ankle, and I will never buy it or any other aerosol sunblock again.

Incidentally, I do like gel-based sunblocks for me and Blake and sunblock in stick form for the girls.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55, for daily use as a facial moisturizer/sunblock. I bought this because of a recommendation years ago from Katie on The Suspects. I had been using the Oil of Olay face lotion with sunblock, but that left me really greasy and shiny, so I'd have to use powder on top. Katie said this stuff left a really nice finish, so I gave it a try and I love it. It goes on quite thick but really does dry to a powdery finish; it doesn't feel heavy at all. It's not meant as a moisturizer so I don't know how it would be for someone who needs a lot of moisture on their face, but for me it's perfect.

Anita Nursing Bra Model 5058. The previous gold standard for nursing bras was the Anita 5062; two separate bra boutiques sold me that bra and it is a fantastic bra. However, last time I went to my bra shop they showed me the new 5058 and it's even better; it has more cotton so it's less stretchy and provides, as they put it, more "lift". More lift means my boobs are up where they're supposed to be and my midsection appears mysteriously thinner. It also has pretty pink ribbon, which is good for morale. Hooray!

Incidentally, the bra boutique where I spend all Blake's hard-earned money always does a proper sizing, of course. Guess what size I am? Go on, guess. You'll never guess. 38G. Seriously. Who the hell is a 38G? That's just silly.

Colgate Luminous Toothpaste, Paradise Fresh flavour. I bought this because I had a coupon, and I liked the shiny box. At first I loved it; it's purple, it has little sparkles, it comes out in a star-shape, it tastes faintly fruity. It's like toothpaste for a princess, apart from that you have to squeeze it out yourself. But now I am annoyed because it's too foamy — it foams up to, like, three times the volume of regular toothpaste within about ten seconds, so you have to spit right away and start over. And the "clean cap" technology is a joke, in that way of something advertised to have a particular characteristic which then turns out to have quite the opposite characteristic. I have never had a toothpaste tube so encrusted with dried toothpaste goo in my life. I will not buy this pretty purple toothpaste again.

Prince Lionheart Stroller Connectors. This is probably one of the worse baby-related purchases I have made. The theory is sound, but in reality the width of two umbrella strollers plus the generous six inches of the connectors is too wide to go through a standard door, so you can only use this on wide sidewalks or maybe in big suburban malls, provided you're not going to actually go into a store. Also (and this is my own stupidity) you're not suppsed to use the umbrella strollers for children heavier than 30 lbs, and Delphine is only one pound shy of that now, so we won't be able to use this for long anyway. Fortunately the connectors were only $20, so no great loss.

Chi-chi Foo Foo Manicure. I bought my friend Kathryn a manicure at a fancy upscale nail spa for her birthday, and a couple of weeks ago we finally got around to going. As a birthday present it worked out well; the experience was fun and we got a chance to hang out. As a manicure, though, it was dismal. I am quite capable of putting lotion on my own hands and filing my own nails; the part I have trouble with is getting the nail polish on really perfectly and having it stay on. Sadly that seemed to be the part these manicurists had trouble with too: the polish job was shoddy and started chipping off within a couple of days. Also both Kathryn and I had dirt under our nails (we both work with children!) and they didn't clean them. On the one hand it's kind of creepy and gross to ask someone to clean your nails for you, but on the other hand can you really call it a successful manicure when your client walks away with dirty nails?

Delphine: Three and a Month

Today Delphine is at daycare. Blake is in Montreal on business so to lighten my load, my in-laws took Delphine for a sleep-over last night. She was really excited to go: "Can I sleep in the crib?" They have a Pack n' Play and Delphine still loves to sleep in it even though she can't stretch out in it any more. This afternoon I will go and pick her up from daycare at around 4:30; when I get there Cordelia will be mobbed by all the little children who are not lucky enough to have a baby sister, and Delphine will play it cool, walking away from me and finding something else to do. After a few minutes she will come back and show me what she is doing, and then she will say "Wanna go home." And we will walk around the corner and down the block, stopping to examine an ant or some broken glass, and to step up onto the entrance at Pizza Pizza.

She's good company these days. She is hardly ever arbitrarily defiant any more; mostly she is compliant and friendly, and if she isn't it's because she's tired or hungry or she wants to wrest your attention away from Cordelia.

I'm feeling a little sad lately because we don't read as much as we used to, because of Cordelia. I used to literally sit and read to her for an hour or more, but Cordelia isn't old enough to sit and be read to yet, so she comes and crawls all over us and pulls the book away and is generally a nuisance. I try and read to Delphine while Cordelia is napping, but I also have to fit in sundry housework in the hour she's asleep, so we usually don't get through more than a couple of books. I hope once Cordelia is old enough to be read to properly we can go back to our old habits.

Cordelia is, unfortunately for Delphine, at that Godzilla stage where she lumbers around the house destroying things because that is all she is capable of; she pulls books off shelves and bends them and mouths them, she overturns towers of blocks and deranges puzzles. As an adult I can accept this, knowing it is temporary, and I can move my precious things to high places, but Delphine can't. She's stuck down there at Cordelia's level and she doesn't appreciate my "she's just a baby" excuses. I wish Delphine had her own room where she could keep things, but for now she is just going to have to suck it up. I suppose it will build character. In a way it's nice that she gets to go to daycare and be free of the barbarian horde for a few hours.

Other than those unfortunate incidents, Delphine gets along quite well with Cordelia. She knows that you are not supposed to snatch toys from her, that if she has something you want you have to find something else for her to play with in exchange. She shares her food with Cordelia and she knows to ask what babies can have. She knows to be quiet when Cordelia is sleeping. She likes to make Cordelia laugh. She is a good big sister.

They have this chart of verbal development which tell you when you should worry -- say, if your three-year-old isn't forming sentences or if your one-and-a-half-year-old doesn't say five words or something. The chart goes up to age five and apparently if Delphine were five, we wouldn't need to worry about her verbal development. She knows colours, she asks the meaning of words, she counts to ten, she knows all the nursery rhymes. She knows nursery rhymes you haven't even heard of.

She's starting to show signs of literacy; she knows that letters are associated with sounds, and she has started asking "what does that say" when we read books. She can recognize some words, although I am still not sure if it is recognition of the word or just remembering what that particular instance of that particular word is. I mean, we were reading an Eric Carle book and I pointed to the word "Eric" and asked her what it was. She got it right, but did she recognize the word "Eric" or did she remember it was "Eric" from the last time we read the same book? Either way it's a step in the right direction; all we need to do now is teach her the correct spelling for "Erik".

I feel like I am being too braggy and I should try and think of something bad to say about Delphine, but I am not trying to brag. I just really like her.

New Tires!

In pseudo-preperation for biking from North of Barrie back to Toronto, I've bought a new set of tires for my bike. So now, instead of the 2" knobbies, I'm riding on a set of 1.5" slicks. I haven't noticed the difference so far, but it's a fairly short ride from the bike shop to my office, and along the way, I was carrying my old tires. I'm hoping that I'll notice more of a difference on my ride home.

But that's not really why I'm posting this. (I'm also not posting this in an attempt to drown out Amy's talk of cute children and chcoclate cake.) I'm posting this because just this morning, I changed my tires for the first time in my life! It's true, I've never had a flat before, and I was a little nervous about getting one one my big trip, but now that I've changed both the front and the back wheel, I see how easy it really is, and it's no longer a concern for me. (The instructions I heard from a guy at MEC last Bike Week really helped, and it's really just not that hard, although I expect it's a little trickier when it's pouring rain.)

In other news, does anyone know of a good bike route from Balm Beach to Toronto?

Books in May

How To Cut Your Own or Anybody Else's Hair by Bob Bent. This was indeed useful -- apparently the key to cutting your own hair is to cut a guide section in front and then match all the other hair up to that section, using lots of mirrors to see the back. I'm pretty sure you couldn't do a complicated style in this manner, but I expect it would work for a simple style if you could stand a few weeks of wearing the results of your own practice.

Sadly some jerk decided to cut out the section on how to cut straight kid's hair (the straight hair of a kid, not the hair of a straight kid -- we don't know about that yet), which is of course the one thing I really wanted the book for.

On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt. Of the three bullshit books I have recently read, this is by far the most successful, with a very intriguing conclusion.

The Curse of the Narrows: The Halifax Explosion 1917 by Laura MacDonald. I love a good disaster book, and this is a good disaster book. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I had not tried to read it on vacation, surrounded by a million distractions.

False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear by Marc Siegel approaches the current American state of constant panic from a more medical point of view. I don't know if it's just me, or if it's all of Canada, but I don't experience the kind of constant fear that he talks about, and I don't really know anyone who does.

The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich are Rich, the Poor are Poor--and Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car! by Tim Harford. This is a pretty interesting book about how economists think about stuff (much like Freakonomics, but slightly less amusing). Harford leans a little further to the right than I am used to, which got my back up a bit, but his arguments are convincing, so in the end I'm sure it did me good.